The Green Line in Cyprus

The United Nations takes over

At the start of 1964, Britain was militarily stretched by actions in Aden and East Africa and declared itself unwilling to act indefinitely as policeman.
In the light of these issues, the 'London Conference' was organised for the 15th January 1964.



Duncan Sandys addressing the London Conference at Marlborough House in January 1964

Duncan Sandys, once more in the chair, stressed the urgency of finding a workable solution to the island's problems.
Unfortunately, the conference broke up in mutual recrimination and increased hostility.

Fighting between the communities spread to Limassol, Paphos and other areas.
Alarmed by these developments, Britain proposed a NATO led peacekeeping force but this was considered unacceptable by President Makarios.
After much debate and behind the scenes negotiations, it was agreed on the 4th March 1964 that a multinational United Nations peacekeeping force would be sent to the island.



U Thant announces the unanimous adoption of Resolution 186 on the 4th March 1964

UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) was formally established on the 27th March 1964 with a three month mandate.
The mandate of UNFICYP was originally defined as: "…in the interest of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions." 

A few days after the formal establishment of UNFICYP, the Canadian aircraft carrier "HMCS Bonaventure" arrived at the Famagusta docks.
The carrier, which brought a further 95 officers to join the Canadian contingent  also carried 16 Ferret armoured cars, 36 trucks and trailers and 160 tons of stores for the Canadian troops.



A Ferret armoured car is unloaded from the Canadian aircraft carrier in the Famagusta docks.........dated 30th March 1964

Until the UN force, comprising troops and civilian police, was operational, British troops wore the 'Blue Beret' and patrolled alone.



British UN troops patrolling the Turkish quarter and an Observation Point in Limassol.......dated April 1964

The 'Blue Berets' were deployed all across the island in areas of close military confrontation (not just in the Nicosia area). Observation Posts and mobile patrols were used in areas of intercommunal sensitivity (such as the few remaining mixed villages) and close lisiason was maintained with all levels of both communities.
Those interested in the scale of this deployment can read "The Blue Beret", the magazine of UNFICYP.....particularily download pages 30-38.
Selected images from 1964-74 can be viewed from the first "The UN at Work" menu item.



British UN Troops in the village of Ayios Theodoros (behind the Turkish school and escorting a Greek Cypriot across the bridge between the two communities).........dated 27th April 1964



Author's note: Today, at locations across the island you can still see the remains of earlier UN presence

By the end of May 1964, a UN force of 6400 men from nine countries was on the island.
Their first major challenge was the outbreak of fighting in August 1964 around two small Turkish enclaves (Kokkina & Mansoura) on the the north-west coast.
Turkish jets bombed Greek Cypriot naval ships and positions in the area that were being used for an attack against the enclaves.






Newspaper headline of the time describes the fighting around Mansoura
Turkish Cypriots defend the enclave of Kokkina and Turkish jets attack a Greek Cypriot patrol boat
During the fighting, Pakhyammos was heavily bombed by Turkish jets causing extensive damage


Fortunately, such violent incidents were rare and the very fact of a UN presence in an area was usually sufficient to prevent minor disputes from escalating.



A Finnish soldier patrols 'The Green Line' running through the village of Omorfita, on the outskirts of Nicosia.......dated April 1965
This village was the scene of major conflict in 1963/64

On the 23rd July 1966 an incident began in the village of Melouseia (often spelled Melousha in UN reports). It appears that a Cyprus police vehicle drove through the village in an "apparently belligerent manner" and then set up a road block on the eastern edge. Turkish Cypriot fighters from the village and surrounding areas moved to occupy their defensive positions and prevented any attempt by the police vehicle from re-entering the village. 



Images from the 'Blue Beret' magazine dated 3rd August 1966.........click this link for a larger image

The UN were informed that the National Guard intended to attack the village. A small force of Swedish UN soldiers was immediately sent to Melouseia and while UN HQ "played for time" they were reinforced by Danish and Finnish infantry as well as Canadian artillery (the resulting UN force was larger than the attacking National Guard).
General Grivas was informed that any attack on the Turkish village would be met by force if his soldiers approached closer than 200m from the UN positions.
The National Guard Chief of Staff contacted the local commander and the advance was halted, it is reported, when they were 250m away from UN positions.



COMBINED OPERATION —On 23/24 July, an Inter-com­munal incident at Melousha threatened to take on more serious proportions. UNFICYP quickly moved in to interpose itself and avoid a possible recurrence of fighting. In this operation, within UNFICYP Famagusta Zone where the Swedish Contingent is deploy­ed, UNFICYP men belonging to SWECON, FINCON and CANCON worked together as a combined operation under the Zone command. 

Image and text from the 'Blue Beret' magazine dated 3rd August 1966

A serious intercommunal incident occurred at Mari in April 1967 when it was reported that a Greek Cypriot National Guard armoured car was fired upon by Turkish Cypriot positions overlooking the main road between Limassol and Nicosia.
Fire was returned by the National Guard with machine guns and mortar rounds. 
Eventually, after further outbreaks of shooting, British and Swedish UN troops positioned themselves between the two sides and hoisted the UN flag.



It is believed that the casualty figures were exaggerated as the UN could only confirm one Turkish Cypriot lady with a minor leg wound



Author's note: In 1973, when driving to the ESBA every weekend, I always used to wave to the UN position that was still on the edge of the ridge
In 2014 I went up to the location to discover the remains of the OP


Fighting in the Ayios Theodorous-Kophinou area in November 1967 brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.
In a situation similar to the earlier Mari incident, a Greek Cypriot police patrol was stopped and then fired upon as it attempted to drive through the Turkish Cypriot part of the village. The incident quickly escalated with the National Guard (controlled by General Grivas) fiercely engaging Turkish Cypriot positions in the area. This resulted in the deaths of 24 Turkish Cypriots and 2 Greek Cypriots.
Turkish jets began immediately to fly over Cyprus and troops were massed on the mainland Greek/Turkish border.
International pressure defused the crisis and General Grivas was ordered to return to Athens.



Headline from the Cyprus Mail dated November 16th 1967



UNFICYP had maintained a strong presence in the village of Ayios Theodorous and at other locations in the surrounding area since 1964

The years following 1967 were without major incident and UN positions across the island continued to monitor and mediate as necessary.



British UN soldiers based in the Limassol area help local farmers harvesting their carobs.......dated September 1968

U Thant, the Secretary General of the United Nations wrote........

"Suspicion and a lack of mutual confidence dominate relations between the two communities. Constructive initiative and non-interference are inevitably and invariably misinterpreted by one side or the other."

This statement (from April 1964) could have been made at any point during UNFICYP's long duty on the island.
'Suspicion and a lack of mutual confidence' is clearly illustrated by an event that took place as late as September 1973.



"A Turkish Cypriot bank manager decided to build himself a house right on the Green Line. This was at a sensitive and disputed point on the Line and the National Guard protested that it was a Turkish ruse to move the Line forward and establish a military strongpoint on it. The matter gave rise to mounting tension and a threat of action by the National Guard. When the (Turkish) Leadership professed not to have the authority to halt construction UNFICYP decided to intervene. Under cover of darkness a small UN post, found by the Finns in whose operational area it lay, was deployed right on the spot where the foundations were being prepared, a UN flag was hoisted and the post was surrounded with barbed wire. When Turks turned up in the morning to resume work, they were told politely that this was a UN post (nicknamed 'Piknik 2' - a reference to a nearby restaurant) to which entry was not permitted. Both sides accepted without demur what UNFICYP had done and a potentially explosive situation had been defused"
Extract from: 'A Business of Some Heat' by Brigadier Francis Henn.


At the start of 1974 the divisions in Cyprus could be described as the 'Green Line' which ran through Nicosia and a number of other 'mini-Green Lines' that observed and demarcated the two communities in large towns and small villages. The map below (dated 1972) shows how a UN presence was spread throughout the island.



Click this link for a larger image (opens in a new window)

Perversely, it was conflict within the Greek and Greek Cypriot communities that would write the next chapter of "The Green Line".